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The Green Scene in Backyard Solutions 2011

The 2011 issue of Backyard Solutions featured lots of great gardening and landscape design advice, including 5 projects from The Green Scene, including an interview with Scott Cohen about the design process that went into of two of his most gorgeous backyard resort style projects.

Divine Screening: Good plantings and structures make good neighbors

The initial challenge for landscape designer Scott Cohen was to create privacy for a family who likes to entertain but whose California property backed up to not one, but four neighboring properties. "We wanted to make it a sanctuary, which meant we had to add privacy," says Cohen, owner of Green Scene Landscape and author of Scott Cohen's Outdoor Kitchen Design Workbook (Booksurge Publishing, 2009), the newly released Big Book of BBQ Plans (Booksurge Publishing, 2011), and 7 other books.

Cohen decided to create multiple levels using structures and furnishings that would enhance the family's enjoyment of their yard and also help serve as a screen, as would layers of new plant materials. With input from the homeowners, Cohen developed a cohesive setting with a decidedly Tuscan flair. A raised centerpiece features a 14' chimney with a mantel, hearth, and fireboxes, and a big sitting area underneath a columned pergola.

Great Backyards 2011
fire pit patio outdoor kitchen stream

On one side, he built a rectilinear swimming pool and hot tub bordered by an arbor with columns wrapped in Royal Trumpet vines; on the other side he situated a dining area and kitchen.

To coordinate outdoor materials with the interior of the home, Cohen selected a faux cast concrete that resembles stone for the fireplace, patio edges, seat walls, and the interior of the pool at the water level.

Because of the home's stucco facade, he introduced other stone-like textures, but he kept them neutral because of the busy fireplace stone. More greenery and color come from Cohen's choice of ornamental purple sweet potato vines that were trained as patio trees.

© Backyard Solutions 2011

Open Yet Intimate

What do you do when you've got a spectacular view of the San Fernando Valley, a terrific new house, and the enticing climate of Calabasas, CA, which means the swim season extends for eight months?

Landscape designer Scott Cohen knew the answer. He designed a swimming pool, hot tub, pergola, fire pit, chaise lounge area, outdoor kitchen, and sun terrace, all focused toward the view. In addition, Cohen arranged the "rooms" so they'd be clearly within view of anyone sitting inside the home's kitchen and dining room.

His choice of materials and detailing also sets this garden landscape apart. Tiles edge the interior of the pool at the water line, and ceramic coated quartz lines the pool interior rather

Paver patio with curtains and fire pit
Tile spa Semicircle Barbecue

than the more traditional white plaster, which discolors over time.

I wanted to deepen the color of the water and extend the life, and this was a way to do so", Cohen said. He also built the pergola from Douglas fir with a flat topped roof that the homeowner accented with a chandelier, and he placed the pergola and fire pit close to the slope for the best views.

Around the swimming pool, he laid interlocking precast concrete pavers for a textured, slip-resistant surface and one that would avoid cracking due to the shifting soil beneath. But instead of repeating those pavers in a path to the pergola and pit, he switched to big concrete slabs that he fringed with grass to break up the hardscape expanse, add variety, and offer a bolder visual canvas.

For sheer delight, he installed a Baja shelf in the curved shallow end so swimmers could take chaise lounges into the water and sunbather, read, or sip a favorite drink. Four laminar jets shoot up an arch of water with colorful fiber optic lights. To introduce soft greenery and color and screen neighbors houses, Cohen planted a large California pepper tree behind one low wall and a hedge of Podocarpus, which he accented with canna "Tropicana" flowers.

© Backyard Solutions 2011

Baja Shelf Canna "Tropicana"